December 24, 2009
Bedford town pay hikes reduced
Town employees face smaller raises


BEDFORD - A loss in shared revenue from the state and increased retirement payments may force some town employees to accept smaller pay raises in 2010.

In meetings with Town Manager Russ Marcoux, the Department of Public Works and other non-union employees agreed to accept a 2.5 percent pay raise in place of their contracted 4.5 percent increase.

Bedford’s police and fire unions, which did not agree to the decrease, instead promised to give up three holidays and cut down on overtime pay.

Lean economic times prompted Marcoux to propose the cuts, which he said would save the town $165,000. Bedford’s economic woes for 2010 include a $155,000 loss in shared revenue from the state, a $65,000 increase in payments to the state’s retirement system, and a 1.8 percent decline in municipal revenues. On Dec. 16, town councilors voted 4-3 to approve the town manager’s preliminary budget, which includes the cuts. The decision came after a heated discussion over the fairness of cutting pay raises for some – but not all – town employees.

Town Councilor Michael Scanlon took a stand against the decreases, arguing that they are unfair.

“If it was everybody, I think I could accept it easier. I’m just having a hard time because we’re doing 
different things for different unions,” Scanlon said. “I just look at that $165,000 we’re putting on the 
backs of our employees and I’m having a hard time with that.”

Town Councilor Chris Bandazian joined Scanlon in opposing the cuts, arguing that the 4.5 percent pay raises were approved in similarly tough economic times.

“We didn’t know last January when we approved these contracts whether we were headed to the equivalent of the next Great Depression, and certainly the financial markets have come around,” Bandazian said.

Bandazian suggested that an increase in taxes could cover the $165,000 cost of the raises.

The majority of the Town Council refused to further raise the tax rate, which it voted to increase by 2 
percent when it accepted the town manager’s 2010 budget in October.

“There are many people who reside in this community who are angry about their tax bills,” said Town 
Councilor Normand Longval. “I feel we came to our conclusions, we made a decision, and we should stand by that decision.”

Scanlon said the real issue underlying the fight for the $165,000 in savings was the town’s lack of 
budgetary wiggle room during a down economy.

“I think we’ve done a tremendous job over the years of keeping this town lean, and the problem with that is in times like this, you don’t have places where you can go and get a bunch of money,” Scanlon said. “When we cut people, it hurts.”

Bedford voters will ultimately decide which cuts to keep at the budgetary town meeting scheduled for March 3.

Until then, residents can comment on the 2010 budget at two public hearings scheduled for Jan. 13 and Jan. 27.



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